On the festival floor, the hottest chefs from the finest local restaurants prepare and serve small plates starring bacon. The best mixologists and brewers quench thirst with refreshing bacon-based and bacon-inspired cocktails and brews. Luxury brands, artisan bacon-makers, and bacontrepreneurs display, sample, and sell a multitude of local craft bacons and bacon-related products. Guests grab a Baconfest: Guide to Bacon playbill and walk around in a bacon-lover’s Nirvana. To celebrate special achievement in the bacon arts, we give out Golden Rasher Awards (the Oscars of the bacon world) to pro and amateur chefs as well as the winners of our Bacon arts poetry, video, song, and other contests. Best of all, Baconfest is good for America. We donate a portion of proceeds from ticket sales, host raffles and organize sponsor matching donations to local food charities. Since 2009, Baconfest has raised over $300,000 enabling partners like the Greater Chicago Food depository to distribute more than 924,000 meals to hungry people in the area. Although we are not a 501 c3 non-profit, our charitable giving is central to our event and to our identity.
We all remember our first taste of bacon. Maybe it wasn’t perfect: maybe the bacon was cold; maybe there was congealed bacon grease clinging to the rasher. But we remember it, because it opened the door to a lifetime of bacon memories. It was that first crispy step on the path to a bacony life. It set the bar for every slab and slice and hunk of sweet cured pork that was to follow. Baconfest USA is in the business of creating new bacon memories. To that end, we find it convenient to list our beliefs about bacon so that you may discern whether the bacon memories we offer are the ones you’ll want lodged in your head.
That’s small “c” catholic, not big “C” Catholic. We treasure bacon in all of its forms, in every preparation. Sure, we have our preferences – some like it baked and some like it fried, some like it smoked and some like it cured; some like it sweet and some like it salty. But we reject nothing at first blush. We believe that the power of bacon is its universality, its capacity to enhance almost any flavor it comes into contact with.
It’s easy to succumb to the “ick” factor, but we accept that every bacon experience may contain the seed of greatness, and so never refuse to try a new bacon combination. Although our minds may rebel, our palates are the final judge. Like that first pioneer who dropped peanut butter into his chocolate or a scoop of vanilla ice cream into his Guinness, we say yes to random greatness, and yes, again YES to trying new things.
There is a thrill in novelty – we are genetically hardwired to seek it. So we seek out new ways to enjoy our favorite meats whenever we can. We are not complacent, never satisfied that we have eaten the best of anything. There is always a new and better flavor down the line. But we do not fetishize the new to the exclusion of the tried and true. Every bacon morsel contains a memory – a solid tangible moment in time, an experience at which the bacon is the core, but the context is the key. Therefore, we value our old bacon memories and seek to revisit them whenever the impulse strikes. We would never abandon a bacon preparation just because it’s not the newest – we can no more disown bacon and eggs than we can disown our own grandmothers. We live in one moment in a great continuum – a single fatty cross section of our lives – a straight line from birth to death, punctuated by cured meat. We cannot discard our past; without it we have no future.
Nothing gets our motors running like tasting bacon from a tiny pig farm in the great hinterlands. We root for these pioneers – they who reject fiscal better judgment and take a chance on making their living through something hand-crafted and artisanal, something impractical and delicious, something perfect and small. But we know that sometimes, greatness comes from organizations of great size. So we refuse to pre-judge based on size, history or organizational scale. We judge only on results.
We are part of the human fraternity – every shared experience brings us closer to our fellow man. We believe that eating together is the ultimate equalizer – when we break bread, we create bonds. When we break bacon, we make community. Therefore we are committed to creating shared bacon experiences that strengthen the bonds of the human community, across religion, across race, across gender, across class. That is the promise of bacon. That is the aim of Baconfest.